Sex, Drugs, And Celebrities: The True History Of Ibiza’s Party Scene

Ibiza is a totally foreign land to us. Not in the "Spain is a foreign country" kind of way. It's more like, "We've heard some stories..." And we're not talking Vegas kind of stories — these are tales that really live in shiny, glittering infamy. So, when this writer was given the chance to travel to the magical power-party island in the Mediterranean, a mini-education was in order. And let's just say, we were not disappointed.
Ibiza has a wild reputation, one that's been passed down from one thong-slinging generation to the next. George Michael, Kate Moss, and Bob Dylan...they've all got Ibiza stories. We probably only know the half of them — but that's more than enough. Ahead, our primer on classic Ibiza moments, fun facts, and weird lore...nope, not your typical fantasy island. Adios!
Bohemian Beginnings — While Ibiza is best known for hard-core, all-night party-going, the '60s was a different time. Much like the free-wheelin', hippie culture emerging in San Francisco, Ibiza became an early escape of sorts for some left-leaning famous faces of the time. Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan were among the chill crowd who flocked to Ibiza and became known as "peluts," which translates to "hairies" for their liberally long locks. But this free-love artsy community still knew how to party…just without a strobe light.
The Workshop of Forgetfulness — We don't need help forgetting things — it happens often enough. But for club Amnesia, a converted farm house that first opened in '78, the name is an invitation to forget everything else besides the dance floor. Of course, with some help from the most notable substances of the day. Owner Antonio Escohotado was a major figure in the club drug scene and his nightlife destination — which originally operated under the name The Workshop of Forgetfulness — was filled with such things. However, drugs or no drugs, Amnesia played a pivotal role in introducing new kinds of house music to the island, namely with the arrival of Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Johnny Walker, and Nicky Holloway in the '80s. Amnesia is still operating today…if memory serves us right.

Photo: Chris Barham/Daily Mail/Rex USA.


Freddie Mercury's Birthday Was Better Than Ours Will Ever Be —
We get it: Birthdays are important. But when you have the will, the location, and the $$$, a birthday can become a major blowout. Just take a cue from Queen frontman, the late Freddie Mercury, who threw his historic 41st birthday party in Ibiza in '87 at the Pikes Hotel. His famous no-budget shindig pulled out every stop, from flamenco dancers to an endless flow of Champagne. Although, as the story goes, according to Ibiza Rocks, practically nothing went according to plan. While the Pikes Hotel scrambled to pick up the pieces of squashed birthday cake and battled electrical problems, Mercury and his approximate 700 guests enjoyed one of the most epic parties, ever.

Acid House & Smiley Faces — While this house music craze is actually traced back to Chicago, when it reached Europe, the club scene latched on. You're probably familiar with the sound: It's receptive and trance-like and often leads to hours upon hours of dancing. Acid house first made its appearance in Ibiza in the late '80s, with the help of DJs such as Oakenfold. Of course, that trance wasn't always entirely music-induced. The party scene also became associated with heavy use of recreational drugs, such as ecstasy and LSD. The musical trip was not without a few other psychedelic add-ons, such as smiley-face stickers, which became a symbol for the movement.
Photo: Richard Young/Rex USA.

George Michael Does Ibiza — Because, if Mercury's shindig didn't prove Pikes Hotel is where it's at, this Wham! video might do it. What'd you say, George? "Club Tropicana, drinks are free"? Then, we'll make it two.

Grace Jones Throws A Ku — While Ibiza's massive nightlife destination, Ku, is no more, in the '80s it was the place to be on the island. The extravagant and elaborate parties were the work of Faruk Gandji, and drove in major celebrities and designers, including, Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino Garavani. Of course, the Ku also understood that it's really never a party without Grace. (Hint: skip to 1:25)
Videos: Via YouTube.
Bigger Is Better — In '95, Ku became Privilege, and to this day still hosts some of the most spectacular parties on the planet and celebrity guests. However, good luck trying to spot one. Said to be the largest nightclub in the world, Privilege can hold approximately 10,000 people. So, bring your friends, your friend's friends, and a GPS to find your way from the indoor pool to the dance floor.
Manumission: The Ultimate In Debauchery — Heavy beats and heavy drugs have always been a staple in Ibiza, but in '94 the team behind Manumission changed the landscape of nightlife. A latin word meaning freedom from slavery, Manumission was an entire nightlife experience that allowed the partygoer to release all inhibitions — as did the entertainment. The scene was a mixture of music, performance art, theatre, and live sex shows, orchestrated by brothers Andy and Mike McKay, and eventually Mike's wife, Claire Mckay. The team brought Manumission from Manchester, U.K., and launched their first party in Ibiza at Privilege. However, when the money ran out, the party ended in '09 (as parties tend to do). That's not to say that Manumission can't make a better-than-ever return in the near future...
Photo: Chris Barham/Rex USA.
Model Behavior (& Misbehavior) — Of course, those who truly love the beautiful island of Ibiza — because there is lots to love — may find themselves settling in for a bit. Linda Evangelista and Elle Macpherson are said to have houses on the Spanish island, and Naomi Campbell and the Delevingne family have also been spotted here. But, of course, not all models have had success making it big in Ibiza's music scene. While Kate Moss is a frequent visitor, in '08 she did find herself dismissed from the DJ booth at Amnesia when she attempted to spin (as the reports go, of course). It's okay, Kate, we've all been there. Well, no we haven't, but we feel your pain.
And, Yes, Ibizan Flu Is A Thing — Yes, Ibiza parties so hard, there is actually a special name to describe the very special hangover one gets come sunrise. While it is typically brought on by excessive partying and lack of sleep, this writer will do everything possible not to be plagued upon her return — no promises, though.
Photo: Neale Haynes/Rex USA.

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